I had a proud Mama moment today. After our long walk to a park and through a new neighborhood, my son was feeling tired. I limit his screen time to about once or twice per week for an hour or so (on a good week),(it helps that we don’t have a TV). But I thought “hey, he’s super tired, I just want to get dinner made, I’ll let him watch something.” So he choose one of his all time favorite movies and plopped down in front of the computer to watch it. I started dinner. After only 10 minutes, he said he was done and wanted to help me make dinner. He’s 3 1/2 years old. I was impressed. I thought, hey, I must have done something right, because he is choosing a chore over a movie. Although I have read that children do not see chores as work, they simply see it as a fun activity to do with Mom (or Dad).
How could I say no? I slowed down my work in progress, pulled a chair over for him to stand on, got his apron on, and gave him a task he could accomplish. I was making my husband’s favorite traditional Kyrgyz potato beet salad. I had baked the huge beet and potatoes in foil in the oven (2 hours at 325F), I had boiled the eggs and carrots earlier that afternoon. My son really wanted to cut the vegetables like he saw me doing. So I got out a butter knife and let him give it his best shot. He actually did a really great job, pretty accurate cutting, no spills, and he remained focused on the task at hand for about 5 minutes per vegetable. I gave him manageable sized pieces to work with. He chopped two potatoes, half the beet, some of the eggs, and part of the red onion (and finally understood why my eyes water around raw onion).
By the time we got to chopping the leftovers from a jar of pickled cauliflower and carrots (not part of the usual recipe, usually we add cucumber pickles, but I’m the Leftovers Lady so this is how we roll!), he drank 3 large gulps of brine (pretty good for your health, but a little salty), and declared “I’m pretty tired about this project now, I’m done.” I was so proud of my little sous chef, who spent about 30 minutes helping me prepare dinner, instead of watching a movie!
If you struggle to get your kids to help with chores, the key is to slow yourself down, break down the steps and tasks, and make it fun and easy for the kiddos to help. My son enjoys/prefers to help me empty the dishwasher (by handing me the items, which I then put away), start the laundry (he gets to scoop the soap and push the buttons) , swiffer & vacuum the floors, etc. It can take us all day long to do everything, but we spend time together and he learns new skills and his attention span and focus improve. He also feels proud of himself and sees that he is contributing to the well-being of our household and family (it helps to use those words when telling him how I appreciate his help).
I captured some photos of his work this evening. He even insisted on scraping the chopped pieces into the bowl, as he sees me doing. What a little guy, I love him so much!